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Lay of the Brand Podcast Episode 15: Do Newswires Have a Future? with Gregg Castano of News Direct

by | Dec 22, 2020

The PR and marketing playbook for the past several decades has relied heavily on news distribution services. But today, the divide between legacy news outlets and modern news sites, bloggers and social media influencers is enormous, fragmenting readership and fed by a never-ending 24/7 news cycle. Do we even need newswires with so many channels for getting the word out to the public?

On this episode of the Lay of the Brand, News Direct CEO Gregg Castano joins us to provide his insights on the current state of the news distribution industry and where we’re going after a year like no other. Additionally, he’ll shed light on the key areas PR and marketing professionals should look for when assessing news distribution services. 

Here are highlights of our conversation. Click below to listen to the podcast or visit layofthebrand.com.

 

Peter Jacobs, Lay of the Brand: I want to start off with an existential question, niche publications and narrowcasting mean exponentially more channels for news and there’s a lot of ways to share the news with those channels that are basically DIY. Considering all of the avenues for distributing content available to marketers and media professionals, is there still a need for news distribution services? 

Gregg Castano, News Direct: Let me start off by saying I have been in this business for about thirty-four years now. Over those three-plus decades, I’ve seen predictions about the demise or the death of the news wire coming and going continuously because there’s always new technologies that come around that can threaten it. First, it was the introduction of commercial broadcast faxing, which everyone said, “Now I can just fax everyone. I don’t need a newswire service.” Then it was followed by the ability to send content by mass email list, which is even better than faxing. Again, that was seen as a potential threat to the model. Then, of course, is something we have come to know as the internet that came about in the mid-nineties and at that point pretty much everyone was convinced that that was going to spell the end of the news wire. 

Then the internet itself spun other functionalities that also became a threat, such as, for those who are publicly traded company employees, ‘notice and access,’ where public companies were permitted by the SEC to meet disclosure by posting their earnings results on corporate websites rather than distributing them via news wire. In that case, I can assure you that even those of us at Business Wire where I worked, perceived this as a significant or existential threat to the core of our revenue model. Yet, nearly 20 years later after ‘notice and access’ was approved by the SEC, that practice has still remained largely limited to a relatively small percentage of companies. So again a threat that looks like it could be a huge threat didn’t really come to be in that sense. 

When you look at the other forms and options for distributing content such as the ones that you named earlier, each of those has its strengths and weaknesses, and each of them has a place in the ecosystem. For example, Twitter is widely regarded as a platform that can replace newswires. However, although it is extremely valuable and a useful tool to reach target audiences, it is limited by the fact that only those who follow your company have access to your content, other when that content is shared through retweeting by your followers. But the reality is, the overwhelming majority of companies do not have very large followings unless you’re a company like Apple, so that negates that threat in some way. 

Nothing has yet come along that enables companies to widely distribute content to multiple constituency segments at the same economy of scale as a news distribution service or a news wire.

One significant example of this is that newswires are the only way f